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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Ridin’ through thick and thin when it comes to parking, gas”

    Ridin through thick and thin when it comes to parking, gas

    My sophomore year, I lived about 4.5 miles from campus at the Sterling University Villa. Since then the complex’s name has changed to University Villa at Ironwood, but transportation is the same. Residents drive a car to and from the UA or hop on Sun Tran’s line 20. After complications with my $249 UA parking permit, I was among those who chose to ride the 20.

    Taking alternate transportation, such as public transit, is a growing phenomenon among UA students. Jim Myers wrote about the changing trends in an Aug. 6 Arizona Daily Wildcat article. After tapping numerous sources, he discovered that students were turning to carpooling, biking and Sun Tran in the face of high gas prices, which peaked at $3.82 in mid-July in Tucson, according to the American Automobile Association.

    Myers assessed that “”soon the problem may shift to finding a seat on the bus,”” instead of a parking spot. That isn’t a bad thing, though, because sometimes a seat on a Sun Tran bus is a prized possession that surpasses its basic function.

    My roommate and I realized this while coming home from campus two years ago. We sat across from a man draped in outdated clothing who seemed oblivious to his matted white hair. He smiled at us and asked me a series of questions: “”Are you from Mexico, man?”” “”Hey man, are you from Canada?”” referencing my Canada T-shirt. “”Boston, man, you’re a Bostonian, aren’t you?””

    I told him I’m from Minnesota, and he immediately changed the conversation to what he’s up to these days. He’s the nation’s defense secretary – the world’s defense secretary, actually. He moved his hands further apart and told us he was the secretary of defense for the entire universe. Then he went on to explain how he produced some of The Beatles’ albums while asleep.

    It was a surreal but cool experience listening to a man who appeared lost in the ’60s.

    Jaika Ojha hasn’t seen similar excitement during the three years she has been riding Sun Tran. Sometimes the bus arrives late, but that’s about it, the animal sciences graduate student said.

    Ojha takes two Sun Tran lines to navigate between her home near Pima Community College West Campus and the UA Agricultural Center on Campbell Avenue. She does own a vehicle but only drives it on occasion because of gas prices, she said. Instead, Ojha purchased a year-long U-Pass for $156. The other passes available to students are a nine-month academic pass for $112 and a semester pass for $70.

    Political science freshman Josh Fowler owns a academic U-Pass.

    “”It’s a thing of convenience and what I had planned on,”” Fowler said.

    Unlike most freshmen, Fowler lives off-campus – way off campus. He commutes daily from the intersection of Tanque Verde Road and Catalina Highway, a 40-minute bus ride if traffic is bad, he said.

    For Fowler, the main reason for relying on public transportation, even if it means enduring a 40-minute ride, is money.

    “”It’s a lot cheaper for me,”” Fowler said. “”But I might move closer to campus with some friends next year, which could change things.””

    Living closer to campus can potentially eliminate most major transportation costs. All you need is a bike and a bike lock or your feet. Either you use those feet to walk, or propel yourself on one the various forms of skateboard and roller skates.

    During her junior year, nutritional sciences senior Jamie Wise walked just over half a mile to class everyday. Wise opted out of the daily walk this year for a 30-year-old Murray bike with gold rims. And she found plenty of benefits with the change in transportation.

    “”It creates more of a breeze,”” Wise said. “”I get more things done, too, since it’s faster.””

    So there it is: a cool breeze and short travel times, if you’re close enough, are the benefits of biking. You can throw exercise in there, too.

    Wise also has a car sitting outside her house, but it doesn’t make the trip to campus. “”Little Blaze,”” her ’85 Chevy Blazer with a missing stereo system, is relegated to the house.

    “”Part of the reason I wanted to live closer to campus is so I don’t have to drive,”” Wise said.

    Cost is a concern, but Wise attributes some of her disdain for driving to Tucson traffic.

    This year, I’ve made the same decision as Wise to leave the car in the front yard, which is our home’s pseudo-parking lot, and pick up a bike. I’m now the proud owner of an ’80s Gazelle. I love it.

    But I’m still unsure of the two-mile ride to campus. It’s hot right now. The National Weather Service has August’s average high at 97 degrees. Three days a week I get on my bike at 10:30 a.m. and sweat to campus. With my backpack firmly on my back, I show up with a freshly bi-colored T-shirt, the back of which is now a darker hue of the original color. It’s trendy.

    “”Yeah, I’ll show up to class with the backpack straps on my shirt sometimes,”” said architecture senior Luke Cline.

    Cline drove his car to campus, parking at the Park Avenue garage, until this year.

    “”With the hike in prices and a freer schedule, I decided to move to a bike,”” he said.

    In an online press release, Parking and Transportation Services said the increase for parking permits for 2008-2009 is $2 a month. So the permits are $24 more expensive this year. The added charge benefits an array of transportation programs, including the Disability Cart Service and routine lot maintenance for those 1,000 fewer parking spots.

    Even with the changes, I still plan to drive my car to campus when I sleep through my alarm. It’s my last resort, and it has worked in the past. With gas prices in mind, I tend to park illegally. I find an open Zone 1 spot and rush to class. Then I spend the entire period wondering if I’ll find a pricey ticket tucked under my windshield wiper blade. I don’t learn much in those classes.

    I was four-for-four until this summer, when I made the mistake of parking at a meter and unknowingly not giving enough change to cover my time. I thought I was lucky.

    A $28 parking ticket later, I realized a bike is the way to go – and that karma’s a bitch.

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